A Ghost Abbey in the Heart of Tuscany

Where on Earth had we landed?… A frolicsome sprite, hidden somewhere behind a decrepit stone wall, replied to me in a hushed voice: “In the depths of the Middle Ages, in a world long sunk into oblivion…” And my daughter – who had been devouring a Harry Potter book lately, – looked up at me with her round, sparkling eyes:
“Mummy, did you hear that little voice?”
“What little voice, darling?…”

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In Venice and in Grand Style: the Art of Damien Hirst

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, enunciated this, and would probably have upheld this view if he had seen the artwork of Damien Hirst, one of the most famous creators of contemporary art and reportedly the United Kingdom’s richest living artist. Or would he?

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A Tall and Spicy Story

The best season to visit Italy can sometimes be… winter! Yes, the cold season. Take the small hill town of San Gimignano, for instance – known as the “Town of Fine Towers”, and also nicknamed the “Manhattan of the Middle Ages” or “Manhattan of Tuscany”. The historic centre of San Gimignano, by the way, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990. Continue Reading →

A Passion for Tuscan Cuisine

I was in Florence last month, strolling across the Ponte Vecchio, when my phone rang. I answered it:

“Hi Katharina, it’s Emiko.
– Oh, Emiko! How have you been?”
We exchanged a few words and then Emiko said:
“Since you’re in the area, would you like to come over for lunch tomorrow?
– I’d love to!”

When a talented cookbook writer invites you over for a home-cooked lunch, this is an offer you can’t refuse.

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Proper Italian Usage and Civilities

“And that is how Italians are. So terribly physically all over one another. They pour themselves one over the other like so much melted butter over parsnips. They catch each other under the chin, with a tender caress of the hand, and they smile with sunny melting tenderness into each other’s face…”

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Italians Like Their Pint Too…

Martin Luther, the famous priest and reforming theologian (1483-1546), once declared: “Beer is made by men, wine by God.”

Well, this is a nice pronouncement. But I think I might have tasted, on several occasions over the past few years, divine wines that had been made by mortals, as well as excellent beers which seemed to be coming straight from the heavens – and some of those beers were Italian!

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Sartorial Elegance in Montalcino

“You have created most of these lovely dresses and jackets, Renata?
– Yes, Katharina, my sister and I have designed them. The bags and scarves too.
– Wow! Talent obviously runs in the family…
– I’m afraid so.

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Seaside Bliss in Capalbio

A lunch at the beach… Few things in life make my family and I as contented as sharing a nice seaside meal with our best friends. My daughter and her young accomplices enjoy the blue waters and endless sandy playground; my husband scrutinizes the distant horizon before religiously considering the menu and wine list; and I, well, I fill up my lungs with the intoxicating marine ether and exchange beatific smiles with the world around me…

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Chestnut Wisdom

Carry a chestnut in your pocket and you’ll never run out of money… No, this is not a piece of advice that I’m trying to give you. It’s a German saying: Eine Kastanie in der Tasche und du hast immer Geld.

When I was a student in my teen years – a penniless student, – I did carry a chestnut in my pocket for several months. Not much happened in terms of personal enrichment, unfortunately. So I gave up on the chestnut trick after a while. But one thing I have never given up on is my long relaxing walks in the chestnut groves of Tuscany.

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Olive Harvest Week in Tuscany

Let’s start with a little quiz… The “thing” is edible, naturally liquid, and can taste of sage, artichokes, bananas, peppers, tomatoes or freshly cut grass. And when it is of high quality, it will scratch your throat a little bit…

And the answer is… Yes, olive oil. You’ve guessed right. And do you know where some of the best olive oils in the world are produced?… In the Bel Paese, of course!

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